Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. with additional details.
Nearly six months after the brazen shooting of a Kansas City attorney at his front door, Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesday charged the 80-year-old man who had long been suspected of the crime.
David Jungerman was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Thomas Pickert, who was shot in front of his Brookside home in October 2017, just moments after walking his children to school.
Jungerman's name first surfaced just after the shooting of Pickert, 39, and he was questioned by Kansas City Police, who at the time were careful to say that he wasn't a suspect. Jungerman was reportedly angry that Pickert had won a $5.65 million verdict against him in the assault of a homeless man.
Jungerman was arrested in March on a separate incident and has been in the Jackson County Detention Center under $1 million bond. Search warrants issued after that arrest brought new evidence, including a tape that Jungerman accidently recorded talking to a friend, saying he had “murdered” someone who had “caused me a lot of problems,” and that “when I think about it, I grin.”
Pickert’s widow, Emily Riegel, told reporters Wednesday that she and her two sons are relieved.
“For 168 days we’ve all wondered if this day would come,” Riegel said. “We have hoped and prayed. We’ve been in the turmoil of the unknown. And today, officially, we have some of those answers and some of our fear can be calmed.”
The charges come after three witnesses told police they saw an older man in a white van, which Jungerman drives, near Pickert’s home the morning of the shooting, according to charging documents. Other witnesses told police that Jungerman answered his phone “Murder, Inc., this is David,” and that he bragged he could get away with anything by claiming he has Alzheimer’s disease,” charging documents say.
Another witness told police that he had a conversation with Jungerman just last month and “Jungerman, stated that he had killed a lawyer with a gun and had gotten away with it. He did it because the lawyer stole his money,” said Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Pickert was killed with a .17-caliber bullet, a rarely-used firepower, Baker said. Last month, police found a live .17-caliber bullet in Jungerman’s van, charging documents say.
Days before Pickert’s death, “pressure mounted on Jungerman,” prosecutors charged, including moving millions between bank accounts, selling his property to his daughter, and depositing $10,000 in an account named “Jungerman Foundation for Justice.” Despite being worth $33 million, Pickert had to file a lien against Jungerman for the $5.75 million judgement, which Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies served the day before the shooting, according to charging documents.
Nearly six months after her husband’s death, Riegel said that the charges are a first step toward true justice.
“To draw on something Tom once said,” she said, “no one gets to be the judge, jury and executioner. That’s not how this country works.”
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and newscaster for KCUR 89.3.